Career / Career Progression

Why Sec+ Should be Your First Cert

by Josh Adams
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Published on December 12, 2016

Certifications can earn you more money. They'll allow you to keep up with new technologies as they're released. They'll also validate your understanding of a topic or technology with future employers.

If you're thinking of starting your journey into networking certifications, there are different paths you can take.

You can start by getting your Cisco Certified Entry Network Technician (CCENT), which gives you the skills to successfully install, operate, and troubleshoot a small branch office network using Cisco products.

Or, you could go the Microsoft route. Since most entry-level networking jobs deal with desktop support (at least a bit), you might want to get your Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certification anyway.

Those are great, but CompTIA might be for you if you want to focus on general technologies and concepts. CompTIA focuses on the technology rather than the brand name, hence its title as a vendor-neutral cert.

CompTIA has a trio of exams that are universally seen as the gateway to your IT career: A+, Network+, and Security+. These certifications focus on computer configuration and maintenance, networking infrastructure, and network security, respectively.

There are plenty of opinions about where to start. We previously suggested that you start with A+, then take the Net+, and save Sec+ for last. And that's how they're designed from easiest to hardest (recognizing those as subjective terms).

But if you know that your career goals specifically involve network security, you may want to rethink your CompTIA path. Here are some reasons why.

You've already been academically training.

If you went to college, consider your major when considering which certifications to earn. Did you get your bachelor's degree in computer science, information security, or network security? If so, earn the low-hanging fruit certifications. You might have a degree, but certifications make you more desirable.

Employers typically want you to have more than an IT-related degree. As discussed in our blog post on college degrees vs. IT certifications, education is important to achieving a career goal, but experience is also key. Don't get stuck in the experience loop. (You can't get a job without experience, but you can't get experience without a job.)

Certifications add a crucial, unique level of accomplishment to your resume, but not just any certification will do. Possessing the right certifications can make the difference between being one of many suitable candidates and the right candidate for a position.

If you've been working toward a path in network security, there isn't much reason to go back to more general certifications, like the A+ and the Net+.

Just keep forging down the security path that you're already on!

You need Security+ for your next job.

If you have a specific career path in mind, learn if there are any certifications that employers recommend you have before applying.

The Security+ certification is useful for information security experts and IT managers, and employers regularly require it for positions. It's a good introduction to information security and a useful foundation for starting a career in network security.

For example, you need the Security+ to work for the United States government.

Granted, having only your Security+ certification will not get you into any specialized or advanced career in network security. However, it is a good starting point to gain the conceptual knowledge to move forward to getting certified in higher-level security certifications such as the Cisco Certified Network Professional Security (CCNP Security) credential, White Hat Hacking, or Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).

You want to learn more about network security.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in network security, the Security+ certification is considered a good baseline. It covers procedures and common-sense security, giving you the foundation you need to protect your information and networks.

Even though Security+ is technically an entry-level exam, it can be daunting. It is generally thought to be the most difficult of the three CompTIA exams, and that's because CompTIA wants it to be that way.

Earning Security+ certification validates that you completely understand the fundamentals of hardware, networks, and network security. It also shows a strong commitment to learning security, which many employers value.

Security issues regularly surround us in IT. Suppose you're intrigued by the expanding types of cybercrime, the detection, and prevention of intrusions, or the different specializations in network security that are growing daily. In that case, the Security+ credential is a credible way to emphasize these interests with potential employers.

Fun Fact about Security+: One of the lesser-known benefits of taking this exam is that it counts as a year towards the 5-year experience requirement for your full CISSP certification.

Each certification is important in the world of IT. Some are more important than others, depending on your career path, skill set, and education, so consider these factors before getting started.

If you think learning more about network security and Security+ certification is a good move, we have a great first step for you!


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